My six year old plodded over to me in obvious mental anguish, “Oh mom, I was so angry that I kicked Lucas. Now, I have to face the consequences!” He headed to grab the list of rules off the fridge. Kevin Lehman, author of Have a New Kid by Friday has said, “Let the rules be the bad guys, not the parents.” Here are some practical steps on how to do just that.
1. Put it in writing. Post not only the rules, but also the consequences for breaking the rules. “Rule #3-No disobedience-Obey right away, all the way, and with a good heart. Consequence for breaking this rule: Lose half-hour of your TV time.”
2. Set a family time to read over all the rules together. Make sure everyone understands. Ask them if they feel all the rules are fair. Keep it positive. We want to be a family that is a team and gets along well, finds solutions for our problems, and cares for each other. Sometimes asking, “Am I forgetting anything?” will lead to some surprising answers as well.
3. Make them own it. Ask, “Which rule did you break?” If they are of reading age, have them grab the list and read it to you. Our rules reside in a plastic notebook page on a magnet on the fridge.
4. Reveal the underlying principle. Rules are not just to punish wrongdoing. The goal is to encourage good moral character. The concept behind our “No lying” rule is that “telling the truth is important.” We included an underlying principle for each of our rules.
5. Spend time with your kids. A sign posted in a teacher’s lounge stated, “Rules without Relationship create Rebellion”. Work on the relationship. Do things with your kids and involve them in what you are doing.
6. Allow room for grace, but let them know it. For example, if the consequence for hitting their brother was no television for two days but there is a special program Dad wants to watch with the kids, he can extend grace for that time. This is a parent’s privilege and children facing a consequence should not beg for grace.
7. Revisit the rules. Read them out loud and make sure they still fit the ages of your children. An occasional reminder is a good thing.
Having established rules for your household is a relief to the parent as well. Everything is not decided on a case-by-case basis, but already has a set consequence. Having our rules written and posted has helped us be better parents to our children.
Have a New Kid By Friday by Kevin Lehman
21 Rules of This House by Gregg Harris
Other articles by Tracey Westphal
Free Lunch-No such thing
How to teach your children the fine art of saying “Thank-you”
Tell Me Again-why is self-esteem so important?